Updated: December 6, 2009 15:58 IST

Curious experiment

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A collaboration between 19 Indian and Swiss artists which works in patches…

When Kulbhushan Met Stockli in a comics collaboration between Switzerland and India in which 19 artists participated. Some of these visited the other country, while others had visited it at other times, and some did not visit at all. The only brief given to the artist was that they should “Avoid the simple travelogue style”.” The artists are: Andrea Caprez, Andreas Gefe, Ashish Padlekar, Christoph Badoux, Christoph Schuler, Kati Rickenbach, Orijit Sen, Samit Basu, Sekhar Mukherjee, Vishwajyoti Ghosh, Anindya Roy, Rajiv Eipe, Sunaina Coelho, Michael Husman Tschani, Pascale Mira Tschani, Fahad Faizal, Samrat Choudhury, Esther Banz and Harsho Mohan Chattoraj.

Shapes of reality

The experiments with colour and shape prompted by the colours and shapes of reality in another country are at least curious if not always interesting. The book suffers as a whole from the problems of fitting verbal narrative/ written text to the page, and more than once, this problematic is in the mechanics of layout. The text often appears to not go beyond labelling, which could work in a comic if the labels are absorbing in the fame of the moment. At times, even the graphics appear too crowded for their pages, perhaps some of these artists are too used to doing strips on a single- issue basis.

There are some, like Samit Basu and Ashish Padlekar's rather convoluted tale with the boring graphics which together make really dull pages and dull, if not impossible reading; Harsho Mohan Chattoraj's “Around the Swiss World in 20 Days”, which is simply too crowded on the page and the graphics and text seem to be competing in doing a jack-in-the box off the page. Sekhar Mukherjee's “Peace Will Come According to My Plan” is too crowded, too much activity between verbal and graphic texts on the page that it's off- putting.

There are others, like the “Yellow House” by Orijit Sen, “The Lost Ticket” by Vishwajyoti Ghosh, and Andreas Gefe's “The Mehndi Designers,” which have so much verbal text that they become more demanding than one may be inclined to accept at the moment. In addition, Gefe's fonts and the colour scheme would require nerves of steel. Another instance of the lettering becoming alarming is “A Short Cut to India” by Andreas Caprez and Christoph Schuler. “The Black Hole and Other News”, done by four of the artists, is also too packed on each page.

Rarely do the graphics and the narration function well enough to please; of these, perhaps Kati Rickenbach's “No Water in O-Block” is the best. It has an interesting narrative, with the right doses of humour and insight, the graphics are exciting and the verbal text is good. Her pages look good and are not difficult to engage with. Anindya Roy and Rajiv Eipe's “My Swiss Warm Up”, “Etc.” also come into this category.

Then there is the question of black-and-white versus colour; while the work of Tschani is certainly pretty with its near psychedelic colour grid, the very brightness becomes problematic in the context of the comic, making the pages far less accessible than they might have been with a more muted colour scheme.

While When Kulbhushan Met Stocklicertainly is an interesting idea, the book itself is not something I would recommend.

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